An excellent interview with Andy Farrell, the head coach of the Ireland men’s rugby team, before the first game of the World Cup commenced, was very interesting and informative in terms of his leadership style and the engagement of his team. This team have performed so well and have attained and retained a world number one ranking.
Andy’s first comments were about purpose and our desire to “inspire the nation”, something that is “bone deep in us” including not just the fans in the stadiums but “the people watching at home”, making everyone, including those living in other countries “proud to be Irish”. This illustrates nicely how he sees the importance of purpose in motivation and performance. One has to point out that saying something like this is easy but his face and his eyes tell you he believes it.
When asked about difficulties with change he responded “doing something different takes time – when something is ingrained it just takes time to change” and he said that “when players believe in what we are trying to preach” it helps and “the more they believe it and the more they understand it the more they can own it themselves.”
Andy went on to describe how previous experiences (as a player and a captain) have shaped who he is and
“as far as Leadership and the way I go about things I am just being myself – you have to be authentic in the way that you are every single day.”
Previous experiences, he maintains, gave him an understanding of that point. “I never asked to be a captain, but because I was never a star player, I was always a galvanizing player – I loved the jigsaw and making players come together.”
On controlling his players he replied “You give them some guidelines and you give them the way that you want them to behave. Then you give them examples and make sure the examples work and then give them legs to make their own mistakes.” So coaching and trust all seem to be part of his mix.
“Then they grow together. They turn up every day with an attitude of not just joining in but wanting to help and wanting to help each other. The knock-on effect for players and coaches alike is pretty powerful.”
“The camaraderie is second to none and is a point of difference for us”
“You can’t just say mistakes are ok or there would be carnage but what you look at and judge is the decision making, to be ahead of the game.”
More on purpose and vision finished up the interview. “We want to be the best we can and when you reach number one its irrelevant because we still want to get better as a team.”
“Its all about being the best version of ourselves. Chasing that potential every day is key for us. We know perfection doesn’t exist. If we know what we are aiming for we can go after that.”
Some great and honest words from a world class authentic leader. What wouldn’t you give to get your team or organisation working like this? If you want to take these words on board and turn them into actions, how do they challenge you? Can you be authentic? Can you give your people the freedom to make mistakes and learn to make better decisions? Can you develop the sort of environment where everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student? Do your people support one another rather than compete?
Perhaps it’s best to start by take a leaf from Andy’s book and setting your purpose and your vision for your people before enrolling them in helping to achieve it and just trying to improve every day.
Aidan Higgins BE MBA MSc (Psych) is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors for the last 15 years. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes. Two recent podcasts are available here on Coaching and on Leadership.